Note: I was the only one to speak during public participation. The Capital’s writeup and my comment on it are included below.
At the SBAC’s first meeting of its current appointment cycle, it appointed Molly Connolly, the Board of Education’s senior aide, as its secretary. While I can understand why none of you would want to serve in this thankless, uncompensated position, it is totally inappropriate for Ms. Connolly to be given that position, as she has a blatant conflict of interest in exercising it, which is another way of saying that she has an ethical conflict.
If you need a paid secretary, the Maryland General Assembly should have provided funding for such a position or assigned you one from its own staff.
As I have repeatedly explained to both the SBAC and its predecessor, it is already totally inappropriate to have the school board’s PR office control the SBAC’s records. You should be ashamed when over the years Capital education reporters have repeatedly had to contact me to learn the most basic information about the various selection commissions’ histories because that information was either not posted or subsequently removed from your website, although retained by the school board and other insiders should they want to see it.
As a basic principle of good governance, the role of agents and principals should be clearly separated. Principals should select agents and not vice versa. More specifically, elected officials are not supposed to control the monitoring of themselves, including keeping so-called public records of themselves. For example, the National Records & Archives Administration is placed outside the control of the president. Similarly, when a special prosecutor investigates a president, the president is not supposed to have a mole in the special prosecutor’s office.
Consistent with good governance principles, I hope you will appoint a secretary from among your members or petition the General Assembly to grant you funds to hire a secretary, consistent with the huge responsibility the public has entrusted in you. If the County and State can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to administer the County’s liquor board, it should be able to spend a few thousand dollars to administer this election commission. Indeed, I would argue that the leadership of the public schools is far more important to the future well-being of our citizenry than the liquor board. For example, the liquor board administers approximately $1million in annual revenue; the school board more than a thousand times as much.
Molly Connolly’s appointment as secretary clearly violates basic good governance and ethics principles. Rather than deliberate on this issue in the back room, you should do so publicly. And if you refuse to do so today, then you should convene a special public meeting to discuss this and other administrative issues publicly. The SBAC’s culture of deliberating on and deciding on its most important procedural issues outside the reach of the Open Meetings Law should be ended.
Lastly, I probably wouldn’t have come and testified tonight if I hadn’t been so annoyed by being removed from the email list providing public notice of this meeting.
Lumpkin, Laura, Anne Arundel commission appoints new member to county school board, Capital, November 19, 2018.
The Capital notes the final 8-4 tally. It doesn’t note that it took 6 rounds of voting to get there, with Leib and Macris tied at 6-6 beginning in the third round after other candidates were no longer in the running. It also doesn’t note that eight votes are needed to appoint a candidate, so there was great pressure to switch in subsequent rounds. In round five there was one switch, bringing the total to 7-5, and in round six there was another switch, giving Leib the necessary eight votes. Leib got the stakeholder (insider) vote. The switched vote of the student member put him over the top.
This is the political dynamic as I see it. I’ve observed selection commission voting since 2008, when the first selection commission was created. In some 20 or so candidate votes since then, the teachers’ rep. hasn’t lost a single time. So if you watch that vote, you will have a good predictor of how the ultimate vote will play out. In this case, I don’t think there was a lot of coordination among the commissioners before the voting began. (This may partly be because I’ve previously used the Public Information Act to track such communications.) So commissioners may have started their voting by voting their sincere preferences. But as the voting went on, they got to observe the voting of the key stakeholders. At some point, after it was down to two contenders and tied 6-6, some commissioners may have asked themselves whether it was really worth alienating the most powerful stakeholders on the commission as well as ultimately being on the losing side (if the past is any guide).
If the commission had deadlocked 6-6, the commission would have had a crisis on its hands. It would not only have looked bad for the commission, but the commissioners would probably have had to spend at least another evening voting and perhaps another evening on procedural matters to discuss reducing the required majority to win from eight to seven votes.
Anne Arundel’s appointed school board era ending on a discordant note, Capital, December 5, 2018.
“What’s just as disconcerting in all this are the actions of the School Board Appointment Committee, the body that voted Leib to the board. It either thought Leib was the best choice in spite of the posts — or, in a more likely scenario — was gobsmacked when they were made public…. The easiest take away of the Leib appointment is that this long-controversial process is ending on a discordant note. Voters will have to decide in 2020 whether a candidate’s online behavior is disqualifying for public office.”
Why wasn’t the Capital “gobsmacked” as much as the SBAC? Is doing a social media audit on a candidate’s Facebook page too much to ask of the Capital’s education reporter? Leib has been involved at a high level of responsibility in Anne Arundel politics and its school system for more than a decade. If this was a problem in a candidate context, it’s not clear why it also wasn’t a problem when he, say, was the county executive’s liaison to the school system–a position arguably more important in setting budget priorities than serving on the school board itself.